The Realities of Finding an Apartment with Roommates in Japan

Recently I wrote an article about the best types of floor plans for singles versus couples, but that of course left out information for those of us looking to move in with roommates. In these situations, a simple 1LDK will usually not suffice! And unfortunately, the more people in your party the more difficult it is to find a rental apartment in Japan…

If you’re looking for an apartment with more than one tenant, one of the first things you should tell the agent (or us, at the GaijinPot Housing Service team) is exactly how many people there will be and what their relationship is. For those who want to have roommates, this matters especially.

The issue is that it isn’t too out of the ordinary for Japanese owners to not allow roommates, or to use the katakana terminology, “room share.” If you’re at least a couple, or family, then most owners would no longer consider this a “room share,” and as long as the room seems big enough you should be alright. If you’re just two or more friends, however, each looking for your own room… it can be more difficult. 

That being said, there are certainly lots of owners who are completely fine with room sharing, as well. As long as the agent you’re speaking with knows your situation right away, they should be able to help. And since we’re already on the topic of roommates, let’s discuss floor plans. One type of inquiry we get a lot is two friends who want a 1LDK. A friend in the main room and a friend in the living room, or sometimes both friends sharing the bedroom.

Why a 1LDK is not always the best choice

Example of a spacious 1LDK. Real Estate Japan stock photo

I think for a lot of people, they gravitate towards a 1LDK because on paper, it seems like it would be cheaper. While that is certainly sometimes the case, it is important to consider who 1LDK units mainly appeal to. As discussed in my last article, a 1LDK is ideal for a single with a bit extra cash on hand, or a couple. Once you upgrade to have two bedrooms, like a 2K or 2DK, units tend to be a little older, but also a little cheaper overall. Plus, you can have proper separation between you and your friend! 1LDK room shares seem quite difficult, as either one person has the better room, or you constantly have another working adult next to you. 

I have a deeper discussion of this in my previous article here, so let’s move onto considering situations with more than two roommates. As a general rule, starting from two people in a 1LDK, you will need at MINIMUM one bedroom less than the amount of people. However, this is not always the case. Even for a “room share okay” apartment, it is not out of the ordinary for the owner to want one bedroom per person. While I do not know the exact reason for this, here is what I would guess: if people don’t have separate rooms, they’re more likely to fight. If tenants fight and one wants to move out, this causes problems for the owner. The owner doesn’t want problems and thus… one room per person.

A 3LDK in Hino-shi for less than ¥100,000 a month. Which roommate will get the slightly larger bedroom? If you’re interested in seeing 3K or larger units in Tokyo, here is a list of our current availability. (If you want to look in another area, you can still click the link and adjust the prefecture!)

The merits of a 3K or bigger

Let’s say we have three friends who want to get an apartment together. Although a 2K or even a 2LDK is likely going to be fine, ideally 3K+ is going to be what you want. This is where we get into the unfortunate difficulty of finding bigger units to begin with… If you looked at the list linked above, you probably noticed that most of the reasonable options are in west Tokyo, whereas the deeper into the core of the city you get, the higher and higher rent goes. Oftentimes we have three bedroom apartments that are over ¥300,000 monthly!

This brings light to the reality of things. If you want to live in the city, having a roommate isn’t realistic.

Many of our tenants and users who inquire with us come from countries where having a roommate is a common strategy to save money, in addition to just a cool way to always have friends around. When many people want to move to Tokyo they might think, “Oh, well my friend is moving there too. We can get an apartment together and save!” In all likelihood though, you’ll just be paying around the same amount as if you both got separate apartments, but now you have another person to share the bathroom with. 

The exterior of a 134 square meter 3LDK in Shinjuku, within walking distance of 5 different stations. Priced at a reasonable (heavy sarcasm implied) ¥769,300 a month! If you want to see the most expensive 3K+ properties we have to offer, take a look here.

Heading to the suburbs

But that’s enough of the negative! Like I said, this is only the case if you’re really determined on a city life with your buddies. You can definitely save a lot of money and get a much more spacious place if you’re out in the suburbs. In fact, just last week I wrote another article about why Chiba, right to the east of Tokyo. Living in the suburbs means a longer commute (which honestly isn’t that bad, but that is an article for another day), but cheaper rent and more space. 

Let’s compare some of the surrounding prefectures to Tokyo itself. If we focus on 3K+ options and go north to Saitama, we can find a lot of options from ¥50,000 up to around ¥90,000. If you’re splitting the rent, that’s a pretty good deal! Please click here to take a look at the current availability. Kanagawa to the south is pricier than Saitama, but also has a ton more variety. We get down to around ¥60,000 monthly, with more luxury options still only going up to around ¥150,000 or so monthly.

One of our 3LDK options in Hiratsuka-shi, Kanagawa. Please click here for the full list! If there’s anything interesting, please inquire and we would be happy to help.

Personally, while I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend having a roommate in Japan, it is at least a possibility that can be considered! Before looking into apartments seriously it’s always good to know what your options are and if you really want to live with some friends, make sure you let your agent know that from the get go and they can set you on the right track. Just, if you’re looking to live in the city, be prepared to maybe live nearby your friend, rather than sharing a place.

By Nathan

Nathan works for the GaijinPot Housing Service, helping foreigners find their home in Japan. He’s American and has lived in Japan for about three years. Read Nathan’s self-intro to find out what brought him here!

Lead image: iStock